Mark 2:23-28, Matthew 12:1-8; Luke 6:1-5 DISCIPLES PICK GRAIN ON THE SABBATH; JESUS IS LORD OF SABBATH
On the Sabbath day, Jesus was going through a grain field and his disciples started plucking the grain. The Pharisees called them out as breaking the law.
"Have you never read what David did, when he was in need and was hungry, he and those who were with him: how he entered the house of God, in the time of Abiathar the high priest, and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and also gave it to those who were with him?" "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath."
Mathew's version ends slightly differently, "Or have you not read in the Law how on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath and are guiltless? I tell you, something greater than the temple is here. And if you had known what this means, 'I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,' you would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.""
The Pharisees were not calling out Jesus and the disciples for stealing. Leviticus 19:9-10 and Deuteronomy 23:25 give instructions to farmers to leave the edge of their fields unharvested so that some of their crops could be picked by travelers and by the poor. Rather, the Pharisees were calling them out for "working" on the Sabbath as in Exodus 34:21. It was obvious that they were not working on the Sabbath, but merely getting something to eat, but the Pharisees were trying hard to catch Jesus in breaking the law and doing wrong.
Jesus referred to David in 1Samuel 21:1-6 to say how ridiculous the Pharisee's accusation. The Sabbath law was there because God loves His people and provided a day of rest for physical and spiritual restoration. The Pharisees were twisting the meaning to fit their own agenda of attacking Jesus. David gave the Bread of the Presence, that which was set aside for the priests to eat, to his friends because they were in need and hungry. There is a saying that "rules are meant to be broken." One must consider the purpose and intent of the rule and the situation at the moment. I imagine being in a war, and being near death because of lack of water, and coming across a church with holy water set aside for church purposes. Would I not drink the water to stay alive and break the rule? God would know my heart attitude and needs and would understand. Rules, such as the Sabbath, are made for man's benefit out of the love of Christ and if the rule no longer benefits man, but is to man's detriment, then the rules need to be flexible. Jesus (God) is the maker of the rules and He is lord over the rules. My actions should be to please Him who has rule over changing the rules. In each situation, pray to God for discernment and feel at peace when a situation in the moment has you doing against God's rules. God understands and has compassion on you when your human need is greater than following a religious rule.
In Matthew's version, Jesus actually uses the word "guiltless." This indicates there is not even anything for Jesus to forgive as the action is without guilt. In Matthew 12:5, Jesus indicates that even the priest break the rules (i.e. the priest words on the Sabbath to lead worship services) and they are considered guiltless, so why aren't those same exceptions allowed for others.
The Pharisees would see Jesus's claim of being master over the Sabbath as heresy. They would not fully understand that Jesus is "God."
How do I treat others when I see them breaking the law? Do I rush to tattle-tell and report them for their wrong doing or do I consider their needs and their heart attitude?